- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

JERUSALEM Abba Eban, the statesman who helped persuade the world to approve the creation of the Jewish state and dominated Israeli diplomacy for decades, died yesterday at the age of 87, hospital officials said.
Mr. Eban was known for his dovish views on Israeli-Arab relations. Yitzhak Herzog, a nephew who served as Israeli Cabinet secretary, said Mr. Eban "was a pragmatist who believed in pragmatism on the one hand and the need to talk and talk and talk, and on the other hand, to stand firm on the basic principles of Israeli defense and foreign affairs."
Mr. Eban was born in South Africa on Feb. 2, 1915, and grew up in England, attaining honors at Cambridge University.
He was only 31 when he was named ambassador to the United Nations, charged with persuading two-thirds of the members to partition Palestine and allow the creation of a Jewish state. On Nov. 29, 1947, the U.N. General Assembly approved the partition by a narrow margin.
Mr. Eban also became ambassador to the United States, and he remains the only Israeli to have held both positions at the same time.
He served as Israel's foreign minister from 1966 to 1974, when he tried to convince a skeptical world that Israel had acted properly in seizing the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Desert, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem in the 1967 war.
A dove at heart, Mr. Eban was often at odds with Israeli leaders. He believed Israel should negotiate peace in exchange for the territories it captured, while successive governments built Jewish settlements there instead.
Criticizing a hard-line government for refusing to give up territory, he said that Israel was "tearing up its own birth certificate. Israel's birth is intrinsically and intimately linked with the idea of sharing territory and sovereignty."
He was just as critical of the Arab leadership. He once said that the Arabs "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity" to make peace with Israel.
His British accent and seemingly limitless vocabulary enthralled listeners in the halls of diplomacy, but he was considered pompous and distant at home. His nervousness in public was evident in tics like a leg that twitched behind a podium as he turned his polished phrases.
For years he was appointed by party leaders to top positions in Labor's list of candidates to the Knesset, or parliament, ensuring his election. In 1988, the first time the selection was made by a wider group of thousands of party activists, he failed to make parliament.
Mr. Eban later turned to lecturing and public appearances. He narrated and helped prepare a 13-part television series about Jewish history called "Heritage: Civilization and the Jews" in 1984. He also wrote a book by the same name, one of his eight major works.
Shunted aside by tougher operators, Mr. Eban advised aspiring politicians to maintain other interests.
"Very early in my life, I understood that in political life there is no guarantee of tenure in status, and that your position is not a function of your capacities or deeds," he said in an interview. "Politics can be precarious and parochial."
In a final honor, he was awarded his nation's highest accolade, the Israel Prize, on Israel's 53rd independence day in 2001.
He is survived by his wife, Suzy; a son, Eli; and a daughter, Gila. He is to be buried this afternoon in Kfar Shmaryahu, the Tel Aviv suburb where he lived, Mr. Herzog said.


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